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Members include Bradley James Nowell (born February 22, 1986, died May 25, 1996 of a Heroin overdose), singer, songwriter, guitarist; Eric Wilson, bass; "Bud" Floyd Gaugh IV, drums. Addresses: Record company--Skunk Records, 203 Argone, #202, Long Beach, CA 90803; Home--Surviving members of the band reside in Long Beach, California.
Sublime came together when the future band members were children. "Bud" Floyd Gaugh and Eric Wilson grew up across the alley from each other and met when they had a head on collision on their Big Wheels. Wilson's father was a former big band drummer and taught his son how to play drums. Wilson met Nowell in the sixth grade; Nowell was a gifted student without many friends and was bussed to a magnet school. Quite a few years later, while Nowell was on break from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he was studying finance, Wilson introduced him to Gaugh and a short time later the three began to jam. It was Nowell who first introduced his bandmates to ska and reggae. They formed Sublime in 1988 and went out to the club circuit but were refused bookings due to their strange-sounding hybrid act. Being the innovative personalities they were, Sublime founded their own label, Skunk Records, just so they could tell clubs they were "Skunk Records recording artists."
The 1992 debut of 40 oz. to Freedom was almost forgotten until two years later when Los Angeles's world famous KROQ radio station put the song, "Date Rape," into heavy rotation. The song was attacked for turning a sensitive subject into a farce. Little did the band know that "Date Rape" would become an independent rock hit and catapult 40 oz. to Freedom on the Soundscan alternative chart for 70 consecutive weeks. This shot the band from punk-garage-playing wanna-be's to overnight stardom in the music kingdom of their genre. Their follow-up, Robbin' the Hood, was recorded in 1994 in an earthquake-damaged house with pirated electricity.
In 1995, Sublime played on the first Warped tour (an annual skateboarding/ska/punk traveling music festival) and was the first to be thrown off the tour for one week because of their unruly behavior. Their daily regimen was waking up, drinking, drinking more as the day went on, playing, and then drinking all night long. Nowell's dog, a Dalmatian named Lou, traveled with them, and when they brought the dog out on stage one night, Lou bit some skaters. That was basically the last straw for the promoters and people trying to keep the peace during their shows.
The drinking, unpredictability, and the out-of-control Dalmatian were all part of Sublime's explosive appeal. Gaugh's stock answer to their appeal is that the band is looking for extremes--the raw experience that could help them write and perform compelling music--but for Nowell, his wild ride to artistic inspiration was fueled by harder drugs than alcohol.
On May 25, 1996, Nowell woke up in a San Francisco hotel room early in the morning. His life had taken quite a few fortunate twists. He was trying to turn his life around and had begun to shake his reputation for wildness and womanizing. He had just gotten married to his girlfriend Troy in a Hawaiian-theme ceremony in Las Vegas, he was doing what he loved; playing his music and touring and the band had just finished recording an album which received rave reviews from anyone who heard it; stating that it was going to be a smash. Life was good. He decided to take Lou, the Dalmatian for a walk along the beach and tried to convince Wilson to get out of bed and join him on the beach. Being that it was around 6:30 a.m., Wilson ignored him. It would be the last time that anyone would see Nowell alive.
There were a few different reports and accounts of what happened that morning. One of them was that Gaugh had raided Nowell's stash in San Francisco and shot up while Nowell was out walking the dog. When he woke up hours later, he found that he'd been joined by Nowell, who was lying stiffly on the bed. Gaugh told a reporter in July that he felt the Grim Reaper had been actually looking for him but confused the two and took Nowell by mistake. Another report said that Gaugh found him lying on his hotel-room bed, dead of an overdose.
Nowell's bandmates profess that they tried to help him but, if drug abuse was mentioned in Nowell's presence, he would get angry and talk about other artists who died as a result of an accidental overdose. He would say how stupid these other artists were and that they shot too much because they didn't know what they were doing. Two months after Nowell's death, Sublime instantly had a hit song on their hands. While this should have been their moment in the sun, Sublime had effectively ceased to exist.
The untimely death of Nowell pushed Sublime into the limelight. Their record sales increased substantially and, while MCA wanted to sell records, they were wary of appearing like opportunists. With that in mind, MCA included a press release stating their wish that Sublime's recordings stand as Nowell's last gift to his family and fans.
- Selective Works
- Albums 40 oz. to Freedom, UNI/MCA, 1996.
- Robbin' the Hood, UNI/MCA, 1996.
- Sublime, UNI/MCA, 1996.
- Living in a Boring Nation, Liberation/Mushroom, 1997.
- With others Misfits of Ska, Dill Records, 1994.
- Hempilation, Capricorn Records, 1995.
- Mallrats (soundtrack), MCA , 1995.
- Punk Rock Jukebox, Revelation, 1995.
- Punk Sucks, Liberation, 1995.
- Saturday Morning: Cartoon's Greatest Hits, MCA, 1995.
- Fox Hunt, Rhino Records, 1996.
- MOM: Music for Our Mother Earth, Surf Dog/Interscope Records, 1996.
- Billboard, May 6, 1995; August 10, 1996.
- People, September 30, 1996.
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